how to fix a backed up sink

Sink with plunger over drain.

Fixing a backed up sink yourself has two big advantages: You save time, and you save money. 

After all, who has the leisure - or the inclination - to wait all day for an expensive repair person to stop by?

When sinks in the kitchen or bathroom back up, pouring liberal doses of boiling water down the drain will often melt clogs away.

If the hot water drain trick doesn't work, you can probably fix a backed up sink yourself with these tried-and-true methods.

Clean the Sink Strainer

Plumbing problems often happen at the strainer area of the sink and are easily fixed by removing the strainer or stopper and cleaning it. 

Here's how to do this yourself:

  • Remove the stopper or strainer by turning and pulling up on it with your fingers. 
  • Rinse away any soap scum, hair, food, or grease attached to the filter.

Plunge a Backed Up Sink

Sure, you put it there for the toilet, but many plungers can also unclog a sink nicely, too. Here's how to utilize the plunger to unclog a backed up sink:

On tub and bathroom sink drains, you need to cover the overflow valve near the rim. Hold a slightly damp cloth over the overflow valve.

As you gently push the plunger down over the drain opening, perform three or four swifts pumps. Then pause to see if the sink drains. If it doesn't, try again.

 Here's how to utilize the plunger and petroleum jelly to unclog your sink:

  • If you don't have standing water in the sink, run the faucet until there are several inches of water covering the drain. This water should help force the clog out
  • Apply a thin ring of petroleum jelly around the rim of the rubber plunger cup to provide for a tighter seal against the drain. This will improve the effectiveness of the pumping action.
  • Once the seal is established, as you gently push the plunger down, hold a slightly damp cloth over the overflow valve. Give the plunger three or four quick, powerful pumps. Wait a moment to see if it drains. If it doesn't, try again.
  • When the drain is cleared, run hot water to wash down any remaining clogged material that might be lingering in the pipe.

Try a Liquid Drain Cleaner

As a last resort before calling that busy plumber, pour in one of your favorite liquid drain cleaners. These chemical cleaners can usually burn through all but the toughest of clogs quickly. Be sure to follow the label's directions carefully.

If the drain cleaner and several short sessions with the plunger won't dislodge the blockage - or if you've noticed that several of your home's other drains are also draining sluggishly - the problem is likely to be deep inside your main house drain and well out of your reach.

It's now time to call that busy plumber. Your work here is done.

Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.